Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- Roger Sakowski

Welcome to the Guest Post Segment: Thoughts on the Process, where authors share some insight on their writing. Our guest post this week is by author Roger Sakowski. Our review of his novel From an Otherwise Comfortable Room can be found here.

RS: What a great idea! Unfortunately, anyone following my approach should take up crossword puzzles instead. In fact, this is more of a confession than it is a description of a writing “process”.

I admire the ability to start a project with known objectives. I don’t have that sort of discipline or focus. It’s not my fault; my brain won’t behave. My career reflects this: I’ve somehow migrated from fine arts to IT consultant/trainer (go figure). I’ve written poems and prose through all of it, but considered my work far too neurotic and obscure for public consumption. I did publish short stories and a number of poems in various college publications, however. I figured they’d be more open to experiments and I was right. In college (a number of them) I took classes in anything that interested me. None of them fit in any particular degreed program, so I didn’t receive one.

I tend to write poetry when I don’t know what I want to express, but I want to express it anyway. I revisited some of those poems every now and then, sometimes I find latent thoughts. I jot down my impressions in liberally structured essays, none of which attempt to link paragraph to paragraph. I just wanted to record what struck me at the time. I have a huge number of these essays. I remember reading a book by Carl Jung. He asserted that a symbol is a complex notion developed over ages by a culture, and that art was signage, a notion developed by an individual. Basically, he felt that symbols were beyond an individual’s full understanding and signage wasn’t. I thought, “Isn’t an individual a symbol?” That got me going. True to Jung’s sentiment, it followed that I shouldn’t understand me either. My pile of essays was “me as a symbol”. It seemed to me that an interesting project would be to develop a true symbol from them as an odd sort of path of self discovery.

I sorted the essays out, and used them to model metaphors for people, places and things. At that point, they weren’t much more than a collection of unrelated elements. I needed a structure that provided an environment for interaction and unity. I decided on a monologue, and patterned it after transcriptions of Celtic epics. Seeing as how the epics were of an oral tradition, and only written down hundreds of years later by monks, it seemed that a monologue was an obvious choice, and the infusion of other religious imagery was equally natural (the monks did a lot of editing). I let his head explode, thus making him the point of union.

The process became an act of layering relationships on various other elements, one to the other, and on that, layer external references. The story was really in the drama of these relationships. Still the elements were too delimited despite the interweaving. They needed to blend blended like the abstract forms of a watercolor painting. I made the narrator a drunk. That did the trick.

I rewrote the entire book over and over to find the best voice, tone, pace, etc. One day, I simply burnt out and called it done. Since publication, I’ve second thought most of it obsessively. I had to take a creativity leave of absence. That’s where I am now.

"From an Otherwise Comfortable Room" by Roger Sakowski
Available online in softcover, Kindle and EBook


If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book, as well. Thank you Roger for sharing your "confession."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sony Embraces Small Publishers and Unknown Authors

September 28, 2009 Dean Takahashi

The shift toward digital books is helping small-fry authors and publishers to get in front of wider audiences than ever before. That trend is being reinforced today as Smashwords announces that it has a distribution agreement to get its books published on Sony’s new eBook portal.

Read Full Article Here.

Lulu -- Important Changes Regarding Reviews

Got this in my email box last week, although it would be nice if their automatic sorting process were a bit better, since all my work is retired and out of print with them. Yes, I don't have a single "available" title with Lulu at the moment. But anyway, here is the email:

We are contacting you to inform you of an important change regarding our Ratings & Reviews system for published content within the Lulu Marketplace.

Our system indicates that one or more of your published works on Lulu has Ratings & Reviews preferences set to "Restricted". This means that only those who have purchased this item can leave ratings and reviews for your content. Next week, we will be launching a great new feature that will share your book on social networking sites such as weRead, Facebook, Myspace and more, allowing over 3 million users to see and review your work via weRead's new review service!

Central to this feature, is the value of community reviews, word of mouth recognition and the idea that, the more people exposed to your work, the more likely someone will purchase or want to review it. With this new feature, people who have not purchased your book on Lulu will be able to review your book on Lulu, weRead or any other site that utilizes weRead's application.
Even though we feel strongly these new features will benefit you, we value your privacy, and, if you are not interested in your book being shared with the weRead service, you can set your reviews to "Unavailable".
Again, this is par for the course with Lulu, the vagaries of the email announcement are mind-blowing. Exactly how are they going to share your work with social networking sites???? Are they going to set up a Lulu page and highlight specific works??? Will they be sharing previews of author's works???? I am sorry Lulu, but yet again, you really need some professional help when it comes to marketing rollouts, or any of your product launches of late for that matter. weRead is already on Facebook, and it works the same as say an Amazon link or recommendation page. How are the Lulu books going to stand out??? They won't, so you can save the vague email hype. Listing books with weRead offers just another distribution channel. I wouldn't consider a distribution channel a form of marketing or a "Great New Feature." The end user still has to fossick through all the books available, and a Lulu link on the main page of weRead really doesn't amount to much either, since it takes the buyer back to Lulu so they can fossick through the books there. It's nice to know that Lulu is expanding its distribution offerings to sites such as, but at most, it only saves the author from loading up their own work on the site themselves. So let's just call it what it is. A distribution channel does nothing to actually sell a book, 3 millions members or not. I'd like a little more explanation as to how this Great Feature is gonna work and what exactly makes it so damn great.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Free Book Friday Winner -- Daniel M

Congratulations!!! The Winner is Daniel M and has been contacted via email.

The Podpeople would like to thank all our readers for participating.

Stay tuned for our next Free Book Friday on October 30th. I'll have a thriller to give away in time for Halloween.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Free Book Friday Review -- The Principles of Ultimate Indivisibility

Title: The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility
Author: Brent Robison
Genre: Literature/Fiction/Short Stories/Philosophical-Existential
Price: $ 14.95
Publisher: Bliss Plot Press
ISBN: 978-0578023168
Pages: 194
Point of Sale:
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Cover Copy: A Web of Stories by Brent Robison. The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility weaves together the disparate lives of ordinary people as they stumble through tiny everyday epiphanies on their way from confusion and loss toward redemption. With structures both traditional and experimental, these thirteen linked stories explore the bonds of family...the impacts of religion...our intertwined struggles with grief, love, and addiction...the intangible circuits of influence that link us to strangers...and the blind but determined striving for consciousness that is common to human experience. Stories in the collection have been published in a variety of journals and have won a Short Fiction Award and an Honorable Mention from Chronogram Magazine, a Fiction Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, and a Pushcart Prize nomination.

I can’t really express how much I enjoyed this book. I love experimental storytelling, and I love spiraling interconnected narratives. You definitely get both in this book, from traditional tales of woe and hope, to Aesop’s fable styled flash fiction, but no matter the technique, the writing is uncomplicated and yet extraordinarily aware of its surroundings. The stories are crafted so subtly that even the most interpretive reader will find them thought-provoking and challenging. I found the stories very true to life, specifically the author's interpretation of the dark struggles we often are faced with in life and the little epiphanies that come in their wake. Not every realization we come to in life is a grand awakening, and epiphanies are not always pleasant. After reading each of the individual stories -- some of them comprised of more than one vignette or character study -- I, in my own personal opinion, thought the collection really begged the question: Hope? Is it really genuine or is it something we invent as a way to justify our acceptance. With each and every story, that thought gnawed on my subconscious.

What also really impressed me was that many of the stories had conflicting interpretations. For instance, in the story “Baptism” -- warning spoiler alert that can't be helped -- an orphaned Native American boy, through tragedy, winds up being fostered by a Mormon family. Upon the initial reading, I could sense some underlying scathing criticism pointed at religious intolerance, intolerance in general. It also made me think hard about the “collective consciousness” that is religion and how it affects the level of freedom people feel they have. As the story progresses, prejudice and alienation turn to trust and acceptance only to betray each other in the end. We can share in the hope when the young Mormon son decides to embrace his new brother, despite the initial cultural bigotry, and through this embracement of an an ideal utterly foreign to his own, he begins to rebel. We can share in his suffocating existence and in the liberation he feels by proxy, but in the end, when a bad decision takes the life of his newfound brother, we also share in his guilt. The Native American boy, through death, is set free, and the Mormon boy is left to regret his sins. Upon a second reading though, we might look at things entirely different, in that the Native American boy was offered redemption. He was to be saved from his heretical existence. Via his refusal to give up his identity, he became the evil usurper, punished in the end for attempting to assert influence over the young Mormon boy. How you take the story will really depend on your own personal dogma.

I found this refracted point of view in many of the stories in the book and found it almost ironic that none of the dénouements, such as they were, really offered any closure. These stories have an uneasy alliance with hope. In the story “Phoenix Egg” we can infer hope rises from the ash. Seems appropriate since the story is about 9-11, but, it’s not quite as simple as that, and again in this one, the reader is subjected to a bit of the pain full on. In he first vignette of this backward moving story we begin with an NYPD officer who, after discarding his life, runs away to a secluded cabin because the futility of what he felt during his volunteer work clearing the rubble from 9-11 was too much for him to bear. The futility and the mortally wounding sense of dread that he clings to manifest themselves in a necklace he found in the rubble, which he has secreted away with him always. In the second vignette, we get a portrait of a journey as we follow the Native American jewelry maker on his quest for a better life, and in the last vignette of the story, that necklace comes full circle as it has made its way from the jewelry maker to a lover and then from one lover to another as a gift pledging eternal devotion. In the end, the main character is high atop one of the towers, twirling the necklace between her fingers as she reminisces about her lover while a small blip of a plane becomes visible in the distance. In that moment, the reader has privileged information. We know what’s going to happen. That woman will die a terrible violent death, her lover will mourn her loss eternal, a country will rage, and an NYPD officer will stand at the edge of the abyss. It’s almost a shameful feeling of hopelessness the reader feels after the last line.

In another story “Saxaphone,” a man’s ideal image of his grandfather is destroyed. Everything he ever assumed about his family he finds out is wrong. The discovery of this err eventually leads to the redemption of his father as the son confronts his own as well as his mother’s alcoholism. In yet another story, we have a man’s darkest desire exposed in his willingness to idly ponder how the world and all its complications will end. The metaphor of the man poisoning the nuisance squirrels in his attic was most disturbing. In the story “Signs,” we experience the little violations that can wear away at our comfort and our sanity. It reveals Jung’s secret order in the disorder and how even the unpredictable and the frightening can become predictable and comforting. Of course my favorite story deals with a man obsessed with the emptiness, the unbearable lightness of being, if you will, and the voids that loss can create in our souls.

Anyway, there is a lot going on in this book. A lot of themes, but most are of the addiction variety: addictions to love, grief, religion, assumptions, loneliness, predictability. Human’s addicted to their pain. This book explores fear in all its wonderous variety. We all share the same collective pathos. There is a lot to experience in this book: a lot of different techniques, a lot of POV shifts. A lot of tense and tempo changes, and yet the messages remain constant, subtle, though not subjugated by the writing. With each successive story we are kept ever so slightly on the edge, even though the situations are relatable, even ordinary. I have never had signs put on my lawn by some unknown assailant, but I know what it is to be driven mad by a neighbor’s barking dog. I know what that violation feels like. I also know what loss feels like, and what it feels like to have an out of control sibling. Most readers will be able to experience these stories on a very intimate level. The characters are almost modern society archetypes in a way, and they appear and reappear in later stories as strangers connect and reconnect with each other in very deliberate and at the same time very coincidental ways. This is a very fine effort indeed, very balanced between the light and the dark. There is no melodrama here, just cold, hard, hopeful reality. And even though the characters are merely sketches, they are hand drawn portraits of humanity, meticulously crafted with all their clichés intact. I was hard-pressed to choose a line that summed up the book, there were so many to pick over that I could have obsessed with the post-it flags for days. These stories dredge the depths of emotion to an almost primal level, but I think these two lines do it with elegant perfection:

Every night I fantasized: Moira, dark in my bed, all warm coffee skin and shadowy places; flare of hip, curve of shoulder, weight of breasts; fingers in thick raven hair, a tongue on wet lips. Sweat, breath, and animal cries. What would it be like, pushing deep and hot inside that moist place of spirit and untamed foreign femaleness, looking into those bottomless eyes in a total melting?

All things built, once destroyed, leave their imprint forever, ghost shapes that linger in the gaps, made of quarks and neutrinos and photons, everywhere, like the memory of water that hides in ice, like the possibility of ice that hides in water.

On a final note: I read a lot of short stories, studied them exclusively for a while. I didn’t rate this book higher because I didn’t find it quite as edgy as say Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. Mr. Robison has the capacity to get that edgy, I did read some of his online offerings before I agreed to review the book. My preference is for a little deeper and a whole lot darker, but that’s just me. In this collection, the author kept things a bit restrained, except for the vignette “Meeting Moira.” Now that was more my kind of walk in the woods, where we tread into very dark and very dangerous territory. The psychology of need is frightening, indeed. Even so, I loved this book, and anyone who likes subtle, thought-provoking short fiction will enjoy this.


To win a copy of this book, comment by Midnight Sunday September 27th. Make sure we have an email address linked to your comment. We will draw the winner Monday September 28th. Good Luck to all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy...
William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”

Or should that be: Alas, poor Mark, Rick, or Steve?????

I ran across a blog poll last week, which begged the question: Is it important that you can pronounce character names? I was startled that 79% or 673 votes came back yes, with a paltry 182 votes for no. One commenter actual stated: Yes, I will stop reading a book because of the character name. However, as I browsed through the post comments, I found the majority to be in the minority percentage. The “No” votes were the most vocal in that naming conventions were not critical to whether or not they liked a story and would continue reading.

Now I can see where naming conventions would be important. Historical fiction for example can and should be rather rigid about the rules of naming conventions. After all, it is fiction set against the backdrop of historical fact. Authenticity is critical to the suspension of disbelief in this case, and so your characters should be named appropriately for their time and place in history. As far as contemporary work goes, most names have mutated from their native forms over the eons, cultures cross, and naming conventions have changed substantially with the advent of baby name books and web-sites. Family names are still used to a great degree as well as symbolic cultural names, but even those are subject to alteration. If we take a look at the Greek name Selena, which means ‘Moon’ we can see how that has changed with the passage of time, not just in meaning, but in spelling variations as well. In the fantasy and sci-fi genres, we have a great deal more creative leeway with our character names, just as we do with the world they live in.

All that said, ethnic bias and stereotyping can still come into play even in today’s modern society. If your main character is Irish then some readers will insist that the character have an approved Irish name with all the complimentary cliché Irish physicalities. So what you can get away with will mostly be determined by your genre, your story, and your ideal reader.

Personally -- as a reader of a wide range of fiction and non-fiction -- if a character name seems appropriate to the story, I don’t care if I can pronounce it or not. I wouldn’t meet someone for the first time and say, “I can’t pronounce your name, it seems odd to me, so, I don’t want to know you.” I don’t do that to fictional characters either. It’s the name the author gave them at birth, the name the author felt suited them, and so I generally respect the choice unless it seems utterly ridiculous for the language, the story, or the character, but in some cases a contradictory name can be important to the overall message, so I try not to pass judgement too hastily. I am always more interested in who a character is than their label. Maybe this is easier for me since I read a lot of foreign translations and fantasy fiction. I am just used to interesting, and in the case of Russian Literature, oftentimes lengthy difficult to pronounce names. I don’t go into books with preconceived notions. It’s the author’s fictional world, and as long as it’s logical within the confines of the piece, I am more than willing to embrace that world as reality for its allotted number of pages.

So tell me authors. How do you pick your character names? Do they come with names, like mine do in some cases? Do you research names like I do in other situations? Do you take creative license at times, or do you stick with rigid naming conventions? And lastly, when you’re reading, has an author’s naming convention irritated you enough to give up on a book, or are you like me -- When in Rome!

The art is Yorick’s skull in the gravedigger scene of Hamlet (5.1) by Eugene Delacroix

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- Jim Murdoch

Welcome to the Guest Post Segment: Thoughts on the Process, where authors share some insight on their writing. Our first post is by author Jim Murdoch. We reviewed his novel "Living With the Truth" a while back, and the sequel to that is currently in our queue. So without further ado: Jim Murdoch

JM: Well, of course, every book starts with an idea but once I have an idea I never have much of a clue where that idea might take me. It's a spark, nothing more. My third novel began as I was walking across the River Clyde. I came up with the sentence: "Milligan and Murphy were brothers," and that was it. By the time I had crossed Glasgow Green I had a paragraph but I had no idea who these people were or what I was going to do with them. Or how they might be brothers. I did know that this was a novel though and not a short story. I sat on that paragraph for a fortnight before I even attempted another word.

When I did begin again it was from where I had stopped and I wrote a scene where I developed the characters. Looking back I can see that all my novels have started the same way, an opening chapter where we get to know a bit about who we're dealing with. This means that the action is delayed till Chapter 2 but I don't mind that.

All the books were written from start to finish and in most cases I had no idea how they were going to end with the exception of Milligan and Murphy. Once I worked out who the pair were and decided what I was going to do with them, from that point on their fate was sealed so I wrote the final chapter and then all I had to decide was how many steps it would taken them to get there.

I write a basic story first and foremost. The first draft of my first novel was about 25,000 words. The rest, as far as I was concerned, was padding and that was the fun part, grafting in paragraphs of descriptions, expanding sentences to give colour and tweaking words so that just the right one is used. That said I edit constantly. And I always do it the same way, find a decent starting point and read until the flow stops. Then edit. Repeat until the book flows from the first till the last word. Often I'll read bits out loud. There is no better way of making sure your text works even if you never intend for it to be read aloud.

Plot is not very important to me. My books end up with them but they're all character driven works and the plot develops as the character does. Once the character has found himself then the book is over.


Jim Murdoch is a Scottish writer living just outside Glasgow. His poetry appeared regularly in small press magazines during the seventies and eighties. In the nineties he turned to prose-writing and has completed four novels and a collection of short stories. His first novel, Living with the Truth, came out in 2008 and the sequel, Stranger than Fiction, was published in August 2009. You can find out more about him on his blog, The Truth About Lies.

Visit Jim at his blog:

The Podpeep review of Living with The Truth:
If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book, as well.

Thank you Jim for being our first.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Admit Your Writing Mistake -- c.anne.gardner

Last week on Jason Boog posted on Sep 18, 2009 07:23 AM "Writing is all about mistakes. The best writers make mistakes every day (and work hard every night to revise them). We've all made our share of writing mistakes. Do you have a doozy? Start the healing process and write a post about your worst bad writing habit or blunder."
I think that self-published authors probably feel the anguish of writing mistakes more intensely than traditional published authors simply because we have the stigma of being self-published already hanging over our heads like a neon sign that begs finger pointing. So I agree to the nth degree that any effort to release ourselves from our respective sins and move on is good one.

I also enjoy open dialog with other writers, self-published or not. Even non-writing readers can weigh in on this to some extent. Sometimes for me, blogging feels very one-sided, and I want to start opening up some of our conversations to fellow struggling authors. A little levity goes a long way, and a little camaraderie goes even farther. That said, I'll be the first to offer myself up for pie in the face.

My biggest writing mistake is that I can't leave well enough alone. Even after the manuscript has come back from the various proof-readers I use, inevitably, the urge to pick a scab overrules all logical sensibility. I'll tweak a sentence or a paragraph and in that process, without fail, I will miss reconjugating a verb or make some other such silly grammatical oversight. It's going to happen, I know it's going to happen, and yet, I cannot resist that urge. My biggest, most ridiculous one of these oversights happened in the first edition of Antiquity. At the moment, Antiquity is in revision stage for the second edition release, and you can bet this was the first thing I fixed. I fully expect to be laughed at, but that's what this "picking the nits" type column is all about. Laughter is the best medicine, and if we can't laugh at ourselves, right?

In this scene, I felt the need, for some reason, to elaborate on how the equipment got to the archaeological site on the mountain, and in my scab picking fugue state, I wrote:

"Since everything had to be hoisted up with wenches, and the icy wind taunted them from every conceivable direction, it had taken them a full week to get all of the camera and lighting equipment up to the summit."

Yup. That is a doozy. Upon reading it many months after publication, I was initially mortified. Then, after I had chastised myself for a good many hours, the embarrassment turned to hysterical laughter upon visualizing what I had written. I could see, clearly in my mind, many a buxom 17th century serving wench, nipples pointed skyward from the cold, lugging all this sophisticated 20th century equipment up a mountain like a herd of vivacious mules. I think my husband and I laughed over this for a week straight.

So, does being aware of the mistake help at all, sure, but being aware doesn't prevent the mistakes and typos from creeping into the work. It happens, and our editors and proofreaders help, but they too are human, and at some point, we all misstep.

So what's my intent here, other than absolution. Well, I am hoping this might be a regular guest column along with our new Thoughts on The Process column. If any of our readers/authors would like to share their biggest writing mistake, submit your mistake and your thoughts on it to podpeep at gmail dot come with the subject line "My Biggest Blunder" and we will post it to the blog. Please include a short bio, a link to your website or blog, and a link to your current release if you have a book you are promoting at the moment.

Writers, you are not alone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- c.anne.gardner

James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could. I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can. -- Samuel Beckett

I can sympathize with Mr. Beckett here. Since I write novellas exclusively, I don't generally overindulge and find the editing process much easier in some respects than do authors who work exclusively with novel length pieces. Maybe that's because I write spare from the start, and so I find it easier to cut later. I like to leave as much subliminal as I can.

Everyone has their own unique creative process: some writers can sit down and crank out pages in a stream of conscious fashion, and some writers, like me, take a more methodical approach.

When I get the "idea" it usually comes along with a main character and some sort sort of philosophical/existential conundrum -- that being the conflict. I always know from the very beginning what the story "means." After that it's a matter of making the story say what it means so that it resonates with the reader on some deep emotional level. How successful I am with that is determined by my ideal reader. We all have one, and we should know what they want and need.

My process starts with the idea, and then the idea transforms itself into a disordered mess of notes, which eventually becomes an outline of sorts. I generally know the beginning and the end of the story, and I tend to have a pretty good sketch in my head of all the various players. I make a lot of character notes with regard to not so much their physical attributes but their attitude and the way they project themselves internally and externally. I don't delve too much into physicalities, just as I don't delve too much into objective scenery. I am more driven towards descriptive content that projects mood and state of mind than geography. After that the major scenes for the story come to me, or rather, the minor conflicts within those scenes come to me, the ones that move the story forward to its greater purpose. Those scenes will eventually become the chapters, and I will rearrange the order as necessary to achieve the proper flow for the story and character arcs. Then I write the scenes out with all the action and dialogue. After the scenes are all written to a greater extent, I go back and start filling the story out. I incorporate the back stories so the character motivations become clear. I adjust the mood lighting, as in the weather, the furniture, and the street signs making sure that nothing is thrown in for the random sake of description, and then I add the segues from one scene to the next, making sure the transitions are logical and forward moving. If I can't get the segues right, then I go back and look at the order of the scenes again.

Once all that's done, which is in general terms: my rough draft, I let it sit for a bit, and then I have some critique partners look at it and give me feedback. After that, I go into full blown editorial mode. This is where I will add, cut, rework the words, and add the poetry if needed. In this stage I am concentrating on whether or not the story is coherent and does everything mirror the original theme directly or indirectly. This is where I find myself adding clarifying phrases if need be, knocking out any rambling descriptive content that isn't important, making sure my characters are three dimensional moving, speaking, thinking emotional beings with opinions and body language and idiosyncrasies. This is where I check all my participle phrases and make sure they make sense and are in the right place at the right time. This is where I take a look at all my adverbs and see if I can replace some with physical action that would carry more impact. And this is also when I cut out all the idle mundane meandering and make sure I have the proper proportions. The balance between narrative, action, dialogue, and description. If it isn't important to the story or it doesn't add tone and texture -- atmosphere appropriate to the theme -- then I cut it. Since I write spare to begin with, cutting isn't such a drastic ordeal for me.

A lot of times, my initial draft will be written in First Person from the main character's POV. In the third major edit, I take a long hard look at my POV character and determine if the distance is appropriate or not. In many cases, I will keep the POV character the same; I might just change the method to a close third instead of an overly intimate first if my character appears whiny or melodramatic. Backing off a bit often brings with it objectivity. Or maybe the story requires the melodramatic character to reinforce the overall theme and so I don't change a thing. It really depends, and I spend a good deal of time looking at perspective.

Then I'll do a couple more passes to check for timing, redundancies, and dramatic flow. I check my paragraphing and white space and add italics sparingly where necessary. After that, it goes back out to the critique partners. Eventually, I wind up with a consensus. I ask the critics what the story meant to them, and if the majority of them have the same overall understanding of the story, then I know structurally, it's finished. Time for the proofreader. Once back from the proofreader, I'll go over it again aloud to catch any areas where a reader might stumble. I might change a word or move a sentence, whatever it takes. Then I fact check one more time: slang phrases, locales, historical tidbits, landmarks, street names etc.

By this time, I have read the story over dozens and dozens of times. I can quote whole passages, and I can hear the characters' voices in my head like they were standing next to me. So now we go to print, which is when I inevitably I find a typo, angst over it till I am blue in the face, and then move on. Move on meaning: I mark the typo with a red flag to flog -- remind -- myself to be more careful even it it doesn't matter how careful I am, and then I run off to fall in love with a new set of characters.

If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book.

The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher's Stone -- Joseph Wright of Derby 1771

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PDF to ePub in Minutes -- PR Web

Convert Your PDF’s to ePub eBooks in Minutes Using the New ‘PDF to ePub’ Software Wizard

DNAML, an eBook technology house has announced the release of a software called ‘PDF to ePub’. Publishers, authors, conversion and design houses can now convert an unlimited number of PDF eBooks into the industry standard ePub format in just six simple steps.

New York, NY, September 15, 2009 --( DNAML, an eBook technology house has announced the release of a software called ‘PDF to ePub’. Publishers, authors, conversion and design houses can now convert an unlimited number of PDF eBooks into the industry standard ePub format in just six simple steps.With DNAML’s PDF to ePub ‘game changing’ software it is possible to achieve four essential goals simultaneously:1. Publishers can dramatically reduce the costs of PDF to ePub conversion, making in-house conversion a real possibility for the very first time.2. The conversion process is quick and requires neither technical nor programming knowledge. (A typical trade title will take 2 to 5 minutes to convert).3. The reduced PDF to ePub conversion cost provides content owners new options including in-house and onshore conversion. This in turn provides greater control over digital content.4. In-house conversion dramatically accelerates time to market for trade titles, enabling publishers and authors to promptly submit latest eBook releases to distribution networks.
Read the rest of the Press Release Here.
This can only be a good thing for Indie Presses and Indie Authors.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What does a podpeep read? -- Emily Veinglory

The 13th Hour
by Richard Doetsch
Reviewed by Emily Veinglory

As a reader, how a book is published is not my primary concern. There are some types of book I like, and it just happens that self-publishers provide books in my interest areas. So do small presses, and so do the large presses. Most readers simply do not know, or don't much care about, the different ways books are delivered into their hands.

To give an example of a mainstream book in my interest area, I have just finished reading The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch. I like books that use non-linear time as a plot device. It just so happens that this has become popular with books like the Time Traveller's Wife and movies like Pulp Fiction and Memento. But I don't like things because they are obscure, and I don't stop liking them because they are popular.

I got a chance to read an advance review copy (ARC) of this book well before its schedule release in December. For self-publishing authors having trouble getting reviewed, I suggest you consider being patient enough with your roll out to distribute ARCs. It is attractive to some reviewers, and I am very much one of them. It may be shallow, but I like seeing a book first. Also by providing early information ARCs help promote the site that reviews them, just as the site promotes the book.

The central premise of The 13th Hour is that Nick Quinn finds his wife's murdered body. He is given the chance to live the last 12 hours over again, one at a time, in reverse order. He makes many attempts to avert Julia's death, but events seem to keep finding a way to bring about the same outcome, or even worse. However, as Nick struggles to change his wife's fate he manages to discover the people, plots and actions that ultimately led to her murder. Predictably enough, this all comes together in his last do-or-die chance to save her.

Despite having a fantasy MacGuffin as a central plot device this book is pure thriller, it is a page turner. There are diamonds, crooked cops, murders, gun fights, car chases, true love, plane crashes, and the tried-and-true ticking clock governing each precious hour. Ultimately the underlying concepts are not qute as clever as I hoped it might be. There is an important plot twist that seemed fairly well broadcast by half way through the book. But this is a book that requires concentration, and rewards it.

The characters are sympathetic and the time-looping complexity is made easy to follow through the eyes of the time-travelling protagonist, through his many different attempts to save Julia. Doetsch has created a better than average thriller that is fast paced and reasonably intelligent; it that keep me up late at night. The 13th Hour is a clear 8/10 book for me. And 8/10 books are few and far between.

The 13th Hour will be published by Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster. Simon & Schuster are not a publisher I feel warm fuzzies for. They have a tendency to push some of the most exploitative contracts around and run silly populist contests. And Richard Doetsch is about as mainstream as it gets. Best seller, etc etc, and The 13th Hour movie rights have been picked up by New Line. His branding as an author frankly annoys me. It is over-blown, air-brushed and arrogant.

I did however like the book, and as a reader that really is all that matters.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness.
Nikos Kazantzakis

I suppose that is what makes a better writer, as well. Often the darkness we gaze into comes from our own inner critic, but sometimes, it comes from the naysayers, the reviewers, the rejection letters, and the textbooks wherein their glaring revelations make us realize we have to work a bit harder on sentence structure and clarity.

Whatever the darkness, whatever form it takes, or however it manifests itself, we can only overcome it if we stare it in the face. We have to confront our own shadow just as we have to confront the darkness beyond it. True enlightenment does not lie in our defeat of the darkness, but in our understanding and embracement of it, as disagreeable as it might be.

The art is “Fall of the Rebel Angels” unknown artist 14th Century.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What Does a PodPeep Read -- c.anne.gardner

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson

A Wild and Extraordinary Ride down a Lost Highway...
The Lost Highway of the American Dream.

I love social satire. I don’t need my characters to be loveable, shit, I don’t even need them to be likeable. I just need them to be what they are, even if it’s revolting. I even rooted for Ellis’ Patrick Bateman as he tried to annihilate the society he lived in, a society that he tried so hard to fit into.

Now, I wasn’t old enough to remember much from the late 60’s early 70’s let alone the political aspects of Nixon’s presidency or the drug culture of the time, so this review won’t have any profound social or political commentary, except that comparisons can well be made to the drug culture of today, and it’s glaringly apparent that not much has changed except for the chemical constituents.

Considering the climate of the time: Nixon’s presidency, the war in Vietnam, and the country’s young men succumbing to the draft, it was no wonder that an entire generation wanted something more, for this was not the American Dream they had been sold. Sound familiar? And for some, the only way to drown out the hypocrisy gnawing at their brains was to give their brains an escape. Expand your mind, as that might be the only part of you that truly is free. Whatever it takes to get you directly out of your head – the higher the better. This story chronicles a journey utterly devoid of restraint and reason, as these two men, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, and their trunk full of felonies set themselves loose on Las Vegas – to them, the last vestige of the American dream. However, their idea of the American Dream is not how most of us would understand it, but somehow, through the fog of hallucinatory metaphor, we can actually see and feel what the main characters are searching for so desperately.

All that aside, even if the 60’s sub-culture is beyond your age group, Thompson’s writing is worth the read. It’s brilliant, sarcastic, and frighteningly absurd: Bars seething with has-been lounge lizards, tearing the patrons to shreds; blood soaked tacky hotels rooms; police car chases; kidnapping; gambling; excess; and debauchery … not to mention the Narcotics convention. The dialog is brilliant written, and through the drug haze, we get offered a media-spinless clarity, a clarity that can only be articulated by the truly disenchanted. Harrowing and ludicrous experiences abound: it’s amazing that the two main characters manage to make it out of Vegas alive, san the straightjackets.

Definitely a wild ride for all. The movie was quite good as well, but it lacks some of the subtleties that can only found in the written word. Thompson’s word:

“But our trip was different. It was to be a classic affirmation of everything right and true in the national character. A gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country. But only for those with true grit. We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the 60's. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Monday, September 07, 2009

Backword Books Gets Face Time in Publishers Weekly

Self-Published L.A. Author Launches Literary Collective
By Wendy Werris
Publishers Weekly, 9/3/2009 8:39:00 AM

Baum is convinced that literary self-publishing will eventually achieve the same sales results as those of traditional presses. “The vetting system is out of whack in the publishing industry,” said Baum, who also runs the online Self-Publishing Review. “It’s literary writers who are having a tougher time of it in today’s climate, not just reaching an audience, but getting published in the first place. With Backwords, the hook is the writing itself. That’s our strength.”

Read Full Article Here


Those who have been in the Self-Publishing review game for a while know who Henry Baum is, and may also be familiar with some of the other authors represented by Backword Books. Henry, since the start of his Self-Publishing Review website, has been a rather vocal advocate for Indie authors far and wide, often coming up against opposition that would make many duck and run for cover -- opposition, interestingly enough, that not only comes from Self-Publishing critics but also from within the Indie community itself. Baum's opinion of the self-publishing world is often a hybridized ideal, melding together the anarchy inherent in the Indie world with the affectations of the Traditional Publishing Industry, affectations that some Indies staunchly oppose. So, let's just say, he just has a way of bringing out the best and the worst when it comes to an argument. I suppose the T-shirt offered on the Backword Books site says it all: Fuck 'em if they don't like a gatekeeper. I imagine the implications of that statement don't necessarily sit well with some folks -- Indie Reader comes to mind -- but as we all know, innovation often has casualties. Even still, Mr. Baum's arguments are always well thought out, and his perspective is anything but narrow. I myself have even felt compelled to comment on his site from time to time, which is odd for me, as I tend to be all the about the writing and rarely engage in the "stigma static" that surrounds the term self-publishing.

I have never read Mr. Baum's book, but Chris Gerrib did review North of Sunset here on the peeps a while back. In all honesty, I have not read most of the authors represented by the Backword Books community, and it has nothing to do with the books. My review queue is daunting as it is, and queries take precedence over unsolicited reading material. However, I did review and recommend highly Broken Bulbs by Eddie Wright, so I can safely say that Backword Books has some talented authors, authors who have been reviewed well by other reputable Indie review sites like The LL Book Review and PodBram.

The Peeps wish Mr. Baum and his Backword Books endeavour the best of luck. Congrats on the article, and I know that all serious Indie authors appreciate the advocacy and the voice of reason.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Friday, September 04, 2009

Review -- Bennington's Place

Title: Bennington’s Place
Author: Gabriel Garconniere
Genre: Fiction/GLBT/MM Erotic Comedy
Price: $9.95
Publisher: Createspace/Kindle
ISBN: 978-1442135994
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Cover Description: A Go Go Boy gets lucky in a leather bar. Things heat up for a traveler cruising on a ship to Alaska. Two college dorm mates hit more than the books during the holidays. An 18 year old gets lucky the first time he ever goes to a bar and he experiences a night of many firsts. A book nerd and a jock fall in this life and after. Two baseball fans hit a home run with a major league player. A vacationer and a photographer escape to a lighthouse for some island fun. A dancer recalls how good he is at what he does, while everyone begs to watch him do it. The US surfing team gets "tricked" by their Australian competition. A construction worker heads to happy hour and finds some hard earned wages he can't refuse. And a bar-fly falls for a shy rugged fisherman who isn't as timid as he leads on to be. Bennington's Place is a collection of 11 hot and steamy tales filled with man on man action. From lust to love, there's a story to appease everyone's desire.

I don’t read or review a great deal of erotica, reason being, most of it I find poorly written and downright boring. The second reason is that I generally find certain “language” ridiculous. I tend to lean, again, towards a more literary approach. Anais Nin would be what I look for, but sadly, most of the offerings out there lack that sort of finesse. I suffered through Anne Rice’s beauty series, which would have been less repetitive and boring if it had been edited down to one book. Beauty was a twit, and if it weren’t for the bevy of finely drawn male characters, the story would have had little personality. I loved, Delta of Venus, Venus in Furs, de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom and Philosophy in the Bedroom . . . each of those written with an entirely different intent. I want story and character . . . and meaning. I want the sexual pathology more so than the titillation. For some, it doesn’t need to matter who the people are or why they hook up, cause it’s all about the porn, but for me, it matters.

I was sent Bennington’s place in the mail by a friend who thought I might like it. This wouldn’t be the first time I have reviewed a GLBT offering on this site, but sadly, we don’t get submissions all that often, which is funny, since Emily writes in the genre, and I read in it quite a bit. Anyway, this was an unsolicited book, but I thought I would review it anyway as a break from the dire lit fiction I most often read.

The first thing that impressed the hell out of me about the book was the characterization. Despite the brevity of the stories and the requisite mad dash to the sex scenes, our characters are well actualized, specifically, their less than appealing quirks and their failings. They are flawed characters going blindly, it seems, into each escapade, and so we get an up close and personal reveal about how the situations affect them. Yes, there are good looking muscled gods with supernaturally large junk all over the pages, but they, in essence, are the cajoling forces that lead the main characters’ down epiphany lane. Hell, if we could all get poked by that sort of catalyst, think of how self-aware the world would be. Anyhoo, all that sounds quite serious, but the author has a way with sexual comedy, and the characters, more often than not, are fumbling and stumbling over each other, and this adds just the right mix of levity to the collection. Yes, the collection here is quite eclectic and very relatable, even for a Het Chick like me. Most of the stories are light-hearted and self-exploratory, some are sad and reflective, and one I found to be almost cruel in its subliminal undertones. There is one fairly serious story in the bunch called Ghost Dodgers, and it reminded me of the movie Torch Song Trilogy. In so far as messages go, I felt that the story Bennington’s Place had the best message with respect to how frightening it can be to move around outside of your comfort zone. As far as theme with respect to characterization, most of the main characters in the book are awkward and feel some sense of alienation, except for Dig Raster. The story Dig, which I would say was nothing less than a pathologically egocentric glance over the shoulder at one’s own Id, was brilliant, downright brilliant.

Despite the deft storytelling and charming naive characters, the books suffers from a myriad of editorial issues, the same issues often found in self-published works: nothing too terribly severe, or distracting, at least not to this reader. A good edit would clean it all up nicely.

As far as the “erotic” content, it was pretty standard MM fare, nothing wild or ground breaking, and after a time, I found it to be a little repetitive. I wasn’t too fond of the “language” either. The term pucker-hole had me in stitches every time I read it, and the phrase “He tapped my prostate” sounded more like an exam than anything sexually stimulating. Good thing the stories and the characters were so damn engaging because I found the sex scenes uninspiring. Too much graphic language and vanilla posturing diminished the visceral experience for me. Actually, the sex could have been removed entirely and the book would have still been a stellar read. In fact, some of the stories were more or less virgin stories, if you will, anyway.

So if you are looking for light MM erotica as a dash of spice to some wonderful and insightfully written GLBT coming of age stories, then this is the book for you.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

Love is when you meet someone who tells you something new about yourself.

If I place love above everything, it is because it is the most desperate state of affairs imaginable.
-- Andre Breton

Considering that the bulk of my own writing has to do with love gone very awry, I do have to agree with Breton here, and I think that the best written love stories have their principle characters not only fall in love but experience a new level of self-awareness through the love.

I pretty much feel the same about my love for writing. Sometimes I find writing to be a most desperate state of affairs, but the process of writing, the act of writing in itself, is where I learn the most about myself, about my personal worldview and its effect on reality as I know it. For me, writing is a psychologically and philosophically intimate process, where often I am huddled naked in a corner picking the meat off my own bones. Delivery from the illusion of one's self is not a painless process. Our best characters are created from that pain. Not everything learned through the writing is pleasant. Love isn’t always a pleasant experience, and self-affirmation is easier to proclaim than it is to actually attain. Writing is no different. Just like in love, we have to work for it, and just like in love, with writing there are obstacles at every turn to be overcome. The inner critic hammers away at every writer. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a PHD in English literature, an MFA, or if you have studied literature and creative writing in your spare time for thirty years for the pure joy of it like myself. The level of knowledge has nothing to do with the level of innate ability one possesses or the level of passion one feels for the craft. Passion is measured by how aggressively the writer wants to learn and improve, or rather, how aggressively they want to grow and nurture the love they feel for the art. Those who are truly passionate about it seek out the knowledge, so they tend to know a bit more and they tend to be a bit more adept, but the technical knowledge itself doesn’t necessarily make one a master when it comes to ability or mass market appeal. If it did, everyone with an MFA would write a Nobel prize nominated book for their dissertation, one that would turn the heads of the literary elite and sell millions of copies to average readers. We all know that doesn’t happen.

Why doesn’t that happen and why is that relevant to the discussion? Well, there is a lot more to writing than grammar, story arcs, plotlines, relevant themes, and characters: archetypes or clichés. Writing, like most art, is also about individual interpretation, style, voice, and intent. It’s also about the subjective more so than the objective. All this takes patience, practice, and a frightening amount of self-awareness. So, yes, the love affair with writing is a masochistic affair between our artistic id, our ego, and the external editor/reader/critic super-ego. (Sorry for the metaphor but it is appropriate.) Why masochistic? Because any writer worth their salt will eventually feel the need to put their love to the test, and by that I mean, put their love out into the world for subjective and objective critique. Believe it or not, this is where the writer learns the most about himself, at the very least, how much of a beating his/her psyche is willing to take for the love.

I have taken my share of beatings and praise over the last few years, and I have come to realize a couple of universal truths when it comes to writing:
  1. The first draft always sucks.
  2. The final draft will still be flawed in some way, and someone will take issue with it.
  3. Your masterpiece is your own individual interpretation on a theme. Not everyone is going to agree with it, get it, or even like it. No one is a genius until history says so.

Now this doesn’t mean we should go off all half-cocked and say fuck-off to the critics. The superego serves its purpose, and that kind of attitude doesn’t do any good at all. When we open ourselves up to literary criticism, we are inviting an assault. No other way to describe it. The assault helps us grow, helps us find the strength to work through the pain. A true writer knows at some point they are going to take a beat down. A true writer welcomes it, understands how valuable it actually is. Doesn’t mean we don't feel hurt or feel humiliated. Words are powerful things and sometimes critics don't use the best words, so we do feel hurt and humiliated, but, it also helps us experience other people’s points of view. It helps us get out of our 'writing mind' for a minute, and so it helps us find a balance between artistic intent and reader expectation. It helps us understand compromise. As a writer, you will have good days and bad days, and you need to be able to take a bad day’s bludgeoning with a bit of grace. Readers, Editors, and Critics are all different. Their expectations are different, and their reading experiences are all different.

So some days the love we feel for the craft may seem unrequited. Nothing will change that. It’s just the nature of the thing -- this love we feel -- but the wounds don't have to be fatal.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Author Success Story -- Fallen Heroes

From Lulu Ink September 2009

"Fallen Heroes" is now on the shelves of several branches of Waterstones, including their flagship branch (where it was labeled a ‘cult hit’), which is regarded as the largest bookshop in Europe. I have, since then, done several book signings both in-store and at various conventions.

Thanks to the success of "Fallen Heroes" I now have an agent and an award winning TV and film production company has optioned the book itself. I am also working with a BBC journalist who will be adapting the story for a graphic novel to be published by Insomnia Publications.

None of this would have been possible without the easy to use and excellent print on demand infrastructure set up by Lulu. One example is the ease by which I was able to release a new edition of the book with a back cover Waterstones review and a front cover quote/recommendation from fantasy author, James Barclay.

Through self-publishing I have pushed myself to do things, in terms of self-promotion and marketing, I would never have done otherwise (signings are not my strong point!). I have learnt a lot about what it takes to not only get your work out there but what to do once it is. It’s been a journey of hard work, disappointment, lesson learning and huge moments of sheer joy.
We here at the Peeps never reviewed this book, but I can remember when it came out. I thought it had one of the best covers I had seen to date in the pod world. Fortunately, one of the other pod review blogs "The Podler" did review it. The Blog is now inactive but the review can still be found here.

The Pod People wish Mr. Nugent much success in his future writing endeavours. Congrats.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What does a Podpeep Read -- c.anne.gardner

The Maimed
By Hermann Ungar

I read the Maimed two years ago, and it's one of those rare books that I return to over and over again. This is from my Amazon review:

Franz Polzer, a pitiable, wretched man, lives out his ordinary days in solitude and poverty ... the mundane tasks carving out his time and his life. Tortured by sick and demented hallucinations of his father and aunt, Polzer suffers an immense sense of self-loathing as well as a loathing of women and children. He also suffers endless nights in cold sweat, paralyzed by the death grip of imaginary thieves and murderers, only to suffer the hours of his days in ceaseless toil, a slave, mercilessly at the beck and call of his obsessive compulsive disorder - everything must be counted and counted again ... and again.

Yes, Herr Polzer is a sad soul, desperately trying to live his life the way he wishes. But an easy mark, even his paranoia and compulsive behaviour cannot save him from the evil of others, who wish nothing more than to take advantage of any situation that might come along. And where one feels empathy for Polzer, there is nothing to feel but revulsion for the other characters in the story ... even his crippled childhood friend whose mind has been devoured by leprosy invokes no sense of pity.

This is a masterful piece of work. As we read the confessions of Polzer's twisted mind, Unger leaves more than enough to the imagination, and yet, without telling every gory detail, he still manages to set your flesh crawling. Polzer's entire identity is in turmoil throughout most of the book: his abusive childhood, his own sexual ambiguity, and his religious prejudices and superstitions fill every terror filled thought in his mind. I couldn't put this book down. In twenty-four hours, I read it cover to cover, on the edge of my seat. And even after finishing, the story continued to claw at my mind.

And kudos to the translator for finding it appropriate to include the final chapter, which was omitted in the original version. It in now way ruined the intentional ambiguous ending that the author desired. It only made me wonder more.

This book was put out by a small press in Prague, and their focus is on translations, specifically of Czech writers. Being a Kafka fan, I was instantly drawn to Hermann Ungar's writing style, which leans more towards the ambiguous. I like to wonder. I like to guess my way through a story. I don't like to be bludgeoned with character motivations, and Ungar is so subtle in this work, it's terrifying. Even the moments of exposition are beautifully done. I noticed as I was preparing to post that the book is out of print. If you can find a copy, I highly recommend it for anyone who likes macabre psychological stories.

Cheryl Anne Gardner